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Superhero dog sniffs out peanuts for her severely-allergic owner

So far, Harley has a great track record of protecting her owner.

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By Jessica Hehir-Smith via SWNS

This superhero pup is literally a life saver and detects whether any item has come in contact with peanuts - as her owner has a severe allergy.

Natalie Rice, 45, discovered that her daughter had a life-threatening allergy about 10 years ago after feeding her a small spoonful of peanut butter.

Her then 4-year-old daughter, whose name is withheld, became red and itchy.

After a visit to the pediatrician, it was confirmed that she had a severe allergy and had to strictly avoid peanuts.

Natalie had heard of allergen detection dogs, but it wasn’t until her daughter suffered from targeted bullying in second grade due to her allergy that she decided to start the process.

In 2018, she contacted a trainer who found Harley - a 3-month-old golden retriever pup - who showed great motivation and a drive to learn.

After a year of training, Harley came home to Natalie and her family ready to sniff out any peanuts and protect the 14-year-old teen.

Natalie, who is a full-time mother from Southern California, said that Harley’s presence has given her daughter freedom like never before.

She said: “Before Harley, we were always wondering if food was safe or if people were taking food allergies seriously.

“We were always extremely careful with restaurants, birthday parties, travel, and everything else. We always carried two epinephrine auto-injectors.

“My daughter missed out on so much because we weren’t sure if things were safe to eat - being able to do things outside of our home was very difficult.

“Harley’s task is to alert us to the presence of peanuts, keeping my daughter safe from anaphylaxis.

“Now she has an added layer of protection and the confidence to eat out.”

The training is split into two parts; first the dog must be trained to alert the scent whenever they detect it.

Then they must ensure that the dog is obedient, properly behaved and able to work in a public setting.

Dogs have up to 100 million scent receptors in their noses and can detect some smells in part per trillion, allowing them to detect a complexity in odors.

The American Kennel Club explains that while humans may smell chocolate chip cookies, dogs can smell the chocolate chips, flour, eggs, and other ingredients.

This is what allows Harley to detect peanuts in food - she can smell things individually so can pick up the scent, whether it is in the food or has had cross-contact.

Harley checks every restaurant and takeout meal, all baked goods, any new foods and any food with unclear labels and any non-labeled items.

Natalie also maintains her training by having her do regular checks on food items she already knows, but if Harley doesn’t seem "up to it" she gets the day off.

So far, Harley has a great track record of protecting her owner.

Natalie said: “We haven’t had any mishaps.

“Her biggest save was during the pandemic. We ordered dinner from a restaurant we have visited often and who knows about the allergy, but Harley alerted us to a pasta dish and was very stubborn about it.

“We set it aside and called the restaurant who later explained that it was actually a Thai noodle dish that had peanuts in it.”

Harley gets to spend her time off with Natalie’s other golden retriever, "big, cuddly teddy bear" Joey.

She will have to retire at some point but there is no specific age - when she begins to slow down, Natalie will begin finding and training a new dog.

For now, however, Harley remains happy and enthusiastic about her job and enjoys each detection.

Natalie began posting videos of Harley on Instagram during the pandemic to raise awareness about the dangers of food allergies and cross-contact.

Despite lots of positive feedback, the negative responses made Natalie realise that there was an enormous lack of understanding about food allergies.

She created Detective Harley, F.A.D.D. (Food Allergy Detection Dog) and began sharing content on her website to educate people and empower children with food allergies.

Her hope is that by spreading awareness about food allergies, people will learn and become more accepting of those who suffer from a life-threatening allergy.

She said: “Food allergies are not a choice and they are not a joke.

“The more people learn about and understand food allergies from a young age, the more accepting they will be as they grow up.

“We hope this will end the stigmas and stop the bullying.

“While the world will never be free of food allergens, education and understanding is the key to making the world a safer place.”

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